Barriers to Agility in a Large Company's IT Organization

Barriers to Agility in a Large Company's IT Organization

Filip Johansson (Stockholm University, Kista, Sweden) and Lazar Rusu (Department of Computer Science and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University, Kista, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJIDE.2019010101
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The ability to detect and respond to change with ease, speed, flexibility and dexterity – referred to as agility – has become a necessary ability for almost any IT organization. In fact, today's IT organizations need to deliver products and services faster and in a more agile manner than before. Despite its importance, there is a lack of research on what barriers exists towards achieving agility in IT organizations. This article explores what factors inhibit agility within an IT organization in a large company in Sweden. The data was collected using interviews, internal documents and observations. An IT organization agility dimensions framework was used to identify and contextualize the barriers to agility. The findings, show that agility is as much a tactical and managerial issue as it is operational. The holistic approach of exploring barriers to agility in an IT organization fills a knowledge gap in research literature, and extends the existing body of knowledge concerning agility for IT organization.
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The contemporary dynamic business environment pose new challenges for information technology (IT) organizations’ who need to be fast, nimble and flexible while still having stable operations with high control and low costs (Gerth & Rothman, 2007). The ability to detect and respond to change with ease, speed, flexibility and dexterity is referred to as agility, also called “…the dominant competitive vehicle for all organizations in an uncertain and ever-changing business environment…” (Tseng & Lin, 2011, p. 3694). Companies’ are increasingly dependent on IT and the demands from the business is changing fast (Tapanainen et al., 2008) Therefore, the IT organization itself need to operate with agility so that it can facilitate IT changes to the business in a fast and flexible manner (Tapanainen et al., 2008). The concept of agility can be applied to any type of function or organization and have gained great interest from researchers and practitioners in several different fields such as manufacturing, logistics and information systems /information technology. In a study done by Kappelman et al. (2017) agility is ranked as a top ten IT organizational management issue and is generally noted as a big concern for IT organizations in today’s companies. Agility has been associated with being an especially troublesome endeavor for large enterprises (Baker, 2006; Stettina & Hörz, 2015; Kappelman et al., 2017). While prior research within the IS field have focused on agility in many different ways, agility in terms of software development and IT infrastructure have gained the most attention (Salmela et al., 2015). Moreover, the research on agility within IT and how IT organizations can attain agility is often isolated to a certain sub-area of IS (i.e., software development) (Salmela et al., 2015). Hence, the growth of knowledge in scientific research about agility is characterized as being in silos (DeSouza, 2007; Salmela et al., 2015). The siloes research enables detailed exploration in specific areas of the IT organization but leaves a lack of research taking a holistic view of agility within IT organizations, where the concept is studied in an integrated and holistic manner (DeSouza, 2007; Salmela et al., 2015). Therefore, we argue that there is a gap in prior research on agility that considers all constituents of the IT organization. This gap, and need for a holistic understanding of IT organizational agility, has been highlighted by for example Nurdiani et al. (2014) and Salmela et al. (2015). Thus, IT organization agility need an empirical and holistic exploration to aid further research in this area in order to provide a more comprehensive view of agility within IT organizations in the future.

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